AdWords advertisers can use phone numbers & addresses for Google Customer Match targeting

Google has added more ways for businesses to target their known customers with AdWords campaigns. As of this month, advertisers can upload phone numbers and mailing addresses for Customer Match retargeting and similar audiences.

Launched in 2015, Customer Match lets marketers upload lists of customers or other proprietary lists —  newsletter subscribers, for example — into Google AdWords to target (or exclude) search and display ads to those users. Until now, Customer Match only supported email list uploads.

As with email data, Google attempts to match phone number and mailing address information with user-provided data in Google accounts.

Hashed email addresses and phone numbers are matched up with Google’s own hashed strings to find matches. The matches are then added to marketers’ Customer Match lists.

For mailing address matching, Google says it “joins hashed name and address data for Google accounts to construct a matching key. After you’ve uploaded your list with hashed customer names and addresses (don’t hash zip and country data), Google constructs a similar key based on your data and then compares each key on your list with the keys based on Google accounts. If there’s a match, Google adds the corresponding Google account to your customer list.”

Here’s a Google illustration of how Customer Match works from the back end:

Source: Google

Advertisers can use Customer Match for targeting those matched customers across all Google properties, including search text and shopping ads, display, YouTube and Gmail. The lists can also be used to create similar audiences for targeting on YouTube and Gmail campaigns.

Phone and mailing lists can be uploaded via the AdWords API or in the new AdWords interface. The Audience Manager is located in the Shared Library, which is accessed by clicking on the wrench icon in the upper-right navigation.

The addition of phone numbers and mailing addresses opens up more opportunities for marketers that don’t have large sets of email addresses to leverage their own first-party data — from catalog and call center sales, for example — in Google campaigns.

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Bing Ads now supports call conversion imports

Marketers running Bing Ads campaigns can now import call conversion data so they can tie calls back to campaign efforts for attribution.

Third-party call-tracking systems can integrate directly with Bing Ads via the Offline Conversion Import tool or APIs.

CallTrackingMetrics is among the first call-tracking services to participate in the program. The system can automatically send session and conversion data to Bing Ads campaigns.

Bing Ads first began supporting offline conversion imports in September of this year, enabling advertisers to attribute offline conversion events captured in their CRM systems.

Google’s new custom intent audiences and you

In mid-November, pre-empting the hellish holiday shopping season, Google unveiled a slew of new features designed to help advertisers maximize their AdWords budgets. While promotion extensions and ad variations are neat and all, the thing I’m most stoked about is the new custom intent audiences feature on Google Display Network (GDN).

If you haven’t checked out Ginny Marvin’s quick summary of what they are (linked above), here’s the gist: Custom intent audiences offer advertisers the opportunity to use the GDN to find “people who want to buy the specific products you offer — based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel.” They come in two distinct flavors:

Create-your-own. Like a trip to your favorite pizza chain (but for the GDN), you can mash topics and URLs together like mushrooms and pepperoni in order to target net-new prospects who are probably into your product or service.Auto-created. No idea where to start with the Display Network? Let your ol’ pal Google help! Auto-created custom intent audiences use the power of machine learning to infer the traits your prospects possess, then create audiences exclusive to your account.

Both have the potential to fill the top of your funnel with relatively enthused prospects, whether you’re a veteran account manager or the owner of a small to medium-sized business who’s looking to leave the comfort of the search engine results page (SERP).

Today, I’m going to speculate as to why custom intent audiences exist before diving into how they work and, more importantly, how you can leverage these shiny new toys for Display Network success.

Why do custom intent audiences exist?

Custom intent audiences allow advertisers of any skill level to leave the confines of the Display Network’s limited (though occasionally useful) predefined audience categories. Instead, you can use information specific to your business (not some tangential searcher’s inferred affinities) to introduce your brand to new prospects with a proclivity for what you’re peddling. If you’ve been funneling leads into nurture programs for a decade, custom intent audiences give you a fairly long leash when it comes to audience definition; if you’re a newbie, Google will do it for you.

Why?

My rampant speculation: Paid search is expensive. There’s a whole mess of competition on almost every ad-bearing SERP you’ll stumble on. As such, many advertisers are shifting sizable chunks of their budgets over to Facebook, where audience definition — not searcher intent — rules the roost.

Previously, outside of remarketing, the Display Network lacked the granular targeting options necessary to keep ad spend on Google properties. Custom intent audiences (along with life-event targeting and the like) are Google’s attempt to retain and recapture advertisers’ top-of-funnel initiatives.

With that, let’s dig into where you — or Google — can build custom intent audiences in your AdWords account.

Where do custom intent audiences live?

Custom intent audiences — of either variety — live on the audiences page provided you’re looking at a Display campaign. (In trying to take screen shots for this column, I nearly drove myself batty looking for the intent tab, only to realize I’d been looking in search campaigns.)

Once you’re in the Audiences interface, and you’ve assigned an ad group or campaign (or created a brand-new one), select the “Target” radio button and choose “Intent,” which should be nestled between “Affinity” and “Remarketing.”

From here, you can either choose from auto-generated custom intent audiences (the love-children of your existing account data and some machine learning) or make your own from scratch.

Create your own custom intent audiences

If you selected the latter, constructing custom intent audiences goes something like this.

From the aforementioned interface, click “Intent.” From there, you’ll see a big, shiny blue “+” next to the words “New Custom Intent Audience.” Click it.

This will open a pop-up in which you’ll create your new custom intent audience. Here you’ll be prompted to name your new audience:

Then, enter a set of keywords and URLs that pertain to the general theme you’d like to use to target potential prospects on the Display network.

Once you’ve selected your desired target keywords and URLs, hit the “Create” button to return to the previous interface, where you can view estimated reach metrics for your new custom intent audience.

Or let Google do it for you

If that looked like Greek to you, let Google use its unimaginable wealth of searcher data to create your custom intent audiences.

When you enter the auto-create interface, you’ll see a ton of potential audiences, each of which is labeled with a single phrase.

To find out what your account’s auto-created custom intent audiences are made of, hover over the name of one. You’ll see a pop-up that looks something like this:

Here you can identify key characteristics of a given audience, including:

what it’s based on.associated keywords from your account.common keywords and URLs evident in content related to a given product or service.

Despite being super hands-off, the auto-created custom intent audiences tend to be super tightly knit (at least in terms of relevance). This is what separates custom intent audiences from the topic- and placement-based Display audiences you’ve leaned on to date. The granularity makes it seem less like you’re plastering ads on random corners of the internet for uninterested searchers to see and more like you’re getting some bang for your buck at the top of the funnel.

Final thoughts

That wasn’t too difficult, right?

To learn more about how custom intent audiences perform in the wild, I reached out to the director of paid acquisition at WordStream (my employer), Aaron Doherty, who implemented them the day they went live.

Aaron said, “Intent and predictive audiences are tough. There’s a lot of math that goes into creating them and not always a lot of results that come out. However, Google’s custom intent audiences seem to be different — they’re narrow and specific, offering segments of users highly relevant to our business. And so far, in limited impressions, we’re seeing good results.”

While custom intent audiences still lack the laser precision of search or the demographic and psychographic trove of Facebook, digital marketers should be emphatic about Google’s first legit foray into defining business-specific audiences on the Display Network.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The lowdown on driving app downloads with Universal App campaigns

Universal App campaigns (UAC) help you find new app users across Google’s largest properties: Google Play, Search, YouTube and Gmail, as well as millions of websites and apps across the Google Display Network. Back in August, Google (my employer) announced that all app install campaigns in AdWords are becoming UACs.

Whether you’re starting UACs for the first time or are looking to get the most out of existing UACs, here are some best practices that I’ve discovered from talking with a bunch of other Googlers.

Getting up and running with UAC

The first key step is defining your goal. You’ll need to set a target based on one of these key performance indicators:

If you care about different metrics in different situations, create separate campaigns for each desired outcome.

From there, you’ll need to set up a few more items:

A daily budget. When you’re driving installs, this should be your target CPI multiplied by the number of daily installs you want (shoot for at least 50 to get enough data). When you’re driving in-app actions, it should be your target CPA multiplied by desired daily actions, shooting for at least 10.Your desired user action, which includes stuff like the first install or first open. This could also be your desired in-app action, like making a purchase or completing a game level.Creative assets, which is where you have some real flexibility. If you’re on a smaller budget, AdWords creates those ad assets on your behalf. Bigger advertisers can add a bunch of images and advanced creative assets (we’ll talk about those a bit later).And one final, crucial component: measurement. Do what you need to do to ensure that you’re measuring all of those actions.

How AdWords knows where to serve ads

So, how does AdWords know where to reach those potential new users without keywords, data feeds or any other targeting? Starting with the info about your app itself (its App Store or Play Store description), it examines signals like search queries on Google.com and Google Play, web crawl data and more. This data is mapped across all of the channels where we place ads and updated multiple times per day. That’s how AdWords can quickly pick up on new trending keywords like a sports event or an upcoming holiday and make sure it serves your app in the relevant context, across different properties.

Looking at users who’ve completed your selected action along with those who haven’t, AdWords evaluates a user’s auction signals. This is stuff like device type, the network they’re currently on, which apps they already have, and plenty of other insightful info. From there, patterns from converting users are identified. These patterns are then used to predict future auctions, where and how to bid, and what creatives to serve to other users who fit similar characteristics.

So it’s like DSA + Smart Bidding + similar audiences + a bunch of other stuff, all at the same time, across networks. Plus, it gets better the more it does it.

How you should manage UACs

Although UACs are more automated than other AdWords campaign types, you still have important levers at your disposal.

Update your bids

The target CPI/CPA/ROAS bids you set and modify have a strong influence on how your campaign performs. I definitely recommend staying on top of those targets. As you make any changes, it’s a good idea to adjust targets or budgets up or down 20 percent at most to avoid any drastic changes in performance. Once you’ve made a change, try to wait for at least 100 conversions before making another update. It takes time for automation to respond to new inputs, so be patient. If you’re curious about what impact a bid change might have for you, check out the bid simulator tool.

Provide great ad components

AdWords optimizes what content will show in your ads across channels. It’s best at doing that when it has a bunch of stuff to choose from in your Universal App campaigns.

When it comes to ad text, include a clear call to action. Write standalone sentences. AdWords automatically combines them to create the best text ad. And keep these short, sweet and focused on one unique selling point.

And when it comes to videos and images, don’t be shy. Add what you’ve got. You can (and should) upload 20 images and 20 videos to your campaigns. Plan to add multiple landscape images so AdWords can mix and match different backdrops across different types of users.

I mean what I said about videos, too. Adding videos gives you a lot more opportunity for your app to get noticed. Focus on different video assets in different ratios, like landscape, portrait and square, so AdWords can maximize reach across all properties, including rewarded, YouTube and native ads. After your creatives have time to run, check out the Creative Asset Report in your account to see how each of your creatives is performing.

Steer your automated campaign

Along with bidding and creative options, there are some considerations that might pop up as you get used to managing these campaigns.

Don’t worry about account structure

While countless articles on SEL have been written about how you should structure ad groups and keywords within your campaigns (including by yours truly), don’t worry about that for UAC. Query-level data is leveraged across campaigns and ad groups for search, and impression-level data is leveraged across GDN (Google Display Network) and YouTube.

Protect your brand

I love that Universal App campaigns are about driving conversions. And brand sensitivity is an important consideration as well, which I also love. By default, there are four brand safety filters enabled: not yet labeled (video and content), mature audience (video and content), tragedy and conflict (video) and sensitive social issues (video and content).

On top of those defaults, you can exclude mobile app categories, topics and autodirector videos. And, of course, you can use negative keywords. Negative keywords in UAC apply to all properties, from Google search to YouTube and everything in between. They’re a great way to protect your brand, but they could also blot out some of your traffic. Use negatives with care.

Don’t worry about cannibalization

While your standard search, GDN or YouTube campaigns and UAC will at times be eligible for the same auctions, only one campaign per account (or linked accounts) enters the auction. You aren’t going to bid yourself up with overlap (a common myth in search that I’ve been trying to quash for years).

AdWords chooses which ad to enter into a particular auction based on your active bids and past campaign performance. What’s in your best interest, auction-wise, should be chosen to show. One consideration: If you’re finding that your campaign isn’t getting the traffic you want it to, you might need to raise your bids to make it more competitive in those auctions.

Conclusion

It’s important to understand how to set up Universal App campaigns for success. It’s also important to know what you should be doing to ensure that these campaigns reach their full potential.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Is holiday paid search more competitive in 2017 than 2016?

The busy 2017 holiday shopping season is now in full swing, and we’ve already witnessed impressive Y/Y sales growth on key shopping days.

As advertisers dig into their own performance, many are taking stock of the competition to get a sense for what other brands are doing. This was a key topic for a #ppcchat Twitter conversation immediately following Cyber Weekend, in which host Kirk Williams posed the following question to chat-goers.

As you can see, most brands felt they saw more competition this year than last year, though 39 percent felt it was about the same. Zero respondents felt that there was less competition this year than last.

Taking a look at Auction Insights reports from Google for a sample of large Merkle retail advertisers, we can get a sense for how many brands were bidding on paid search keywords this year compared to last. As always, the metrics found in these reports and the stories they tell will differ significantly from advertiser to advertiser, but the following gives some quantification of what the paid search competitive landscape looks like this year compared to last.

It also illuminates at least one important 2017 change that advertisers should take into account when comparing these metrics Y/Y.

More shopping competitors than last year

Taking a look at the period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday Y/Y, we find that the average number of Google Shopping competitors included in Google Auction Insights increased pretty significantly for each day. The largest increase came on Black Friday, with a 42 percent increase in average numbers of competitors featured.

That’s a lot of additional competitors gobbling up impressions this year compared to last year!

However, one issue that might have increased the number of competitors without any actual change in the number of competitors is Google’s mid-May 2017 update to impression share calculation. With this change, Google increased “the universe of total impressions” it looks at for impression share.

Per Google’s communications, brands might have seen their own impression share decline in May with the increase in total impression volume taken into account in impression share calculations. However, Merkle brands actually saw a modest increase in Shopping impression share beginning in May relative to early 2017 and have continued to see higher impression share.

Taking a look at the number of competitors included in Google Shopping Auction Insights by month since last November, we find that the number increased steadily from November 2016 to April 2017. In May, the number of competitors jumped significantly, and this figure has held roughly steady since late summer.

Thus, it seems like Google’s impression share calculation change might be the culprit of much of the increase we’re seeing in Cyber Weekend competition this year compared to last. It’s possible that the jump in competitors is unrelated to Google’s change and actually does represent an influx of competition in May, but the timing makes me think the two are related.

Looking at competitors by device, phones and tablets saw the biggest jump in the number of competitors Y/Y for most days. Desktop saw its biggest jump on Black Friday and its smallest jump on Cyber Monday.

Number of text ad competitors slightly down

On the text ad side, we actually find that the number of competitors included in Auction Insights declined slightly Y/Y for each day from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

Broken down by device, we find that phones saw the largest declines Y/Y in the number of competitors.

Conclusion

So what does all this mean?

There are definitely more competitors in Shopping Auction Insights this year compared to last. However, we observed a jump in May at a time when Google changed how it measures impression share. Thus, at least some of the increased competition might be the result of reporting changes.

Text ad auction insights show no signs of increased competition over Cyber Weekend this year compared to last on average for the sample studied, and in fact indicate slight declines in the number of brands competing.

Answering the question posed by the title of this post, I think it’s fair to say that Google Shopping is seeing more competition this year than last year, especially since we know at least one massive brand is now involved that wasn’t at this time last year. However, there’s reason to believe that competition might not have heated up quite as much as Auction Insights indicates.

On the text ad side, the decline in the total number of competitors isn’t massive but does seem to be consistent enough to represent a real change from last year to this year. Was the change a real decline in the number of competitors or a shift in something on Google’s end? That’s tough to answer, but the indicators at least point to a conclusion that there was not significantly more competition in text ads this year compared to last over Cyber Weekend.

As mentioned earlier, the competition observed in Auction Insights varies significantly by advertiser, and, as this post shows, also by device and ad format. What is your brand seeing this year?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Which PPC metrics matter? Lessons from half a million keywords

Are your AdWords campaigns working… like, really working?

That might be a surprisingly hard question to answer. Anybody with an AdWords account can see if they’re getting clicks, and it’s not too hard to set up conversion tracking — but chances are that the reason you put money into AdWords was that you wanted to get money out.

In other words, you want your ad spend to produce sales.

As obvious as this statement is, actually determining how different factors in your AdWords campaigns affect sales can be fairly difficult. To try to shed more light on the subject, we recently conducted a study on how different variables affect ad performance at Disruptive Advertising (my company). We pulled data from well over half a million keywords and measured return-on-investment against dozens of variables.

In short, we wanted to answer the question: What predicts profitability in an AdWords account? Our findings may surprise you.

1. High CPC = low profitability

With any pay-per-click platform, the more clicks cost, the less profit you’ll make. However, many businesses are quick to argue that if a new sale is worth enough, it’s worth it to bid on keywords with expensive CPCs.

But do things actually work out that way?

In our study, we found that ROI rapidly drops off as your cost-per-click (CPC) increases. For example, take a look at data we pulled from a variety of e-commerce companies:

Now, for these companies, a sale was worth anywhere from tens to thousands of dollars, so you’d think that at least some of their keywords would perform well at a higher CPC. But it didn’t work out that way.

Even for expensive products, higher CPCs were directly linked to low ROI, to the point where paying more than $5 for an e-commerce click is like saying, “No, I don’t want to make money on this product.”

2. Long-tail keywords are a waste of money

Based on the above findings, it seems like long-tail keywords would be the way to go. After all, the longer the keyword, the less competition there is and the cheaper the click will be.

However, that only works up to a point.

When we looked at how keyword length affected ROI, we found that the most profitable keywords typically had 15 to 30 characters.

If you think about it, these findings make sense. Below 15 characters, you face one of two problems:

    The keyword is too non-specific and produces low-quality clicks, orThe keyword has good volume and intent but is way too competitive.

Above 30 characters (and especially above 40 characters), the searches are usually incredibly specific and have low conversion intent. For example, we once saw an AdWords account that had received 127 clicks from the search term “how do I remove the terrible smell from carpet that has been flooded using household ingredients.”

Despite all these clicks, this search term had never produced a single conversion. Why? Well, people who bother to type in a 96-character search term like this are usually looking for a very specific answer — the kind that you get on a forum or answer board, not a landing page.

3. More clicks don’t mean more conversions

If you have a conversion rate (CR) of 5 percent and a click-through rate (CTR) of 5 percent  for a given ad, it’s easy to assume that doubling your CTR will double your conversions. While that may be true in some situations, as a general rule, increasing your CTR actually tends to decrease your conversion rate.

Yes, you read that right.

In our study, higher CTRs were typically associated with lower conversion rates. Let’s take another look at that e-commerce data we were talking about earlier.

(Note: Since this is e-commerce, a single click sometimes leads to multiple sales, which is why a good chunk of our conversion rates fall above the 100 percent mark.)

As you can see in the graph above, as CTR improves, the conversion rate plummets. But why? Since people only click on ads that they think match their intent, wouldn’t a higher CTR lead to a higher conversion rate?

Unfortunately, that only happens if you are targeting the right audience with the right message. In many cases, CTR improves because you are targeting the wrong audience with the wrong message (or at least an unclear message). As a result, they think they’ve found what they’re looking for, only to end up on your landing page and discover that your business isn’t what they really want.

4. There is no silver bullet

Sadly, this is where the clear data ends. Although AdWords experts love to say, “Pull this lever and you’ll make more money,” it doesn’t work out that way in practice.

For example, let’s take a look at how well click conversion rate (percentage of clicks that convert at least once) predicts ROI:

At first glance, this graph looks great! I mean, look at that trend line. Clearly, the higher your conversion rate, the more profitable your campaigns will be, right?

While this graph looks compelling, there’s a problem. If you take a close look at the graph, it’s pretty clear that the dots don’t really follow the line. In other words, the trend line doesn’t do a very good job of predicting real-life results.

In statistics, we describe how well a trend line fits the data using R2 (R squared). In the case of the graph above, the R2 value is 0.31, which essentially means that the trend line is only accurate about 31 percent of the time.

In our study, we found that the best predictors of ROI were the amount of time spent on a page and the number of pages visited. That’s kind of a no-brainer — if you’re converting, you’re going to spend more time on the site and visit more pages. But it’s hard to use that data to improve campaign performance. After all, forcing someone to visit more pages and spend more time on your site isn’t likely to get them to convert.

But what about all the other metrics we love to watch? How does modifying those metrics affect ROI?

As you can see above, the very best predictors of ROI are CTR and CPC. But even those factors only have R2 values of 0.27 and 0.19, respectively. A 27 percent and 19 percent success rate aren’t exactly the kind of wins you want to wager money on.

Now, that being said, these numbers are based on our whole data set. When you group companies with a $0.25 CPC and a $10 product with companies with a $25 CPC and a $1,000 product, your data are not going to be very consistent.

So, let’s try to simplify things. Instead of looking at our whole data set, let’s look at the R2 values for e-commerce keywords with very similar CPCs and see if that provides any additional clarity:

In this chart, I’ve assigned bronze, silver and gold medals to the top predictive factors in each CPC range. As you can see, hashing out the data in this way does improve the predictive value of each of these factors, but our best performer is still only accurate about 50% of the time.

So, regardless of what you may read out there, there is no “silver bullet” for AdWords performance. Improving your CTR, ad position or conversion rate might improve your ROI, but it’s a shot in the dark.

Conclusion

Really, when you get right down to it, every business and market audience is unique, which means that the only true “silver bullet” may be blood, sweat and tears. That being said, these data may be a bit of a relief to you.

After all, if improving these metrics doesn’t reliably improve ROI, that means you can spend less time worrying about your CTR and more time identifying new, creative ways to reach and influence your target audience. If you’re focused on creating profitable ads and campaigns, rather than improving surface metrics like bounce rate, you’ll probably end up with better results.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The importance of targeting branded searches

Search experts understand the importance of targeting non-branded search terms: Optimizing for high-volume, non-branded terms can drive a significant amount of traffic to your brand’s site.

While targeting non-branded search terms plays an essential role in your overall search strategy, many brands still underestimate and neglect the power of branded search terms. By relying on the strength of a brand and integrating branded search tactics with current non-branded search strategies, your business can discover more qualified leads — and, as a result, increase conversions.

The role of branded search in consumer behavior

For many established companies, their branded terms make up a majority of their keyword profile. If people are searching for your brand or products by name, they’re likely deeper within the sales funnel. In fact, Google has found that branded keywords have over two times higher conversion rates when compared to non-branded terms. So why would brands shy away from increasing or stepping up their branded search efforts?

Let’s flip the script and put you in the customer’s shoes. Say you’re searching for a fitness tracker your brother would love this holiday season. When you begin your gift hunt, are you more likely to search for “best fitness tracker for men,” or for “best Fitbit for men”?

Data from Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Due to the Fitbit’s brand awareness efforts, the product is iconic enough that consumers search for it more often than non-branded terms. Search engines like Google, Bing and Amazon recognize the strength of the brand — SERP layouts and competitive pricing reflect this.

Brands working to improve their conversions need to work the entire marketing funnel. For brands or products well-known enough for branded search terms to be relevant to audiences, it’s important to know how audiences discover your products so you can target these branded search terms. Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table for competitors and review sites to take for themselves.

Integrating branded search tactics into marketing strategy

With a strong brand, and thus stronger branded search terms, bread-and-butter search tactics will have some incredible advantages. These advantages span both paid search and organic search tactics, affecting every aspect of search from the page rankings, search boxes, knowledge panel, and even map results. With branded search, search engines will recognize your main site, if optimized for best practices, as the most relevant site for searching by potential customers.

Organic search

Your home page and (if applicable) product category pages should rank the best for high-traffic branded search terms. Your title tags and meta descriptions should clearly display these branded search terms and relevant context that encourages searchers to make the decision to click. Once they do, the site should match the promise the SERP listing made with this copy.

Your goal should always be to dominate the first page and to obtain the highest positions with optimal branded search efforts. Brands should not only focus on their branded terms at the user’s research and consideration phases of the funnel, but also the post-purchase phase.

In the research phase, searchers will find strong, relevant brands first and foremost. Consider that they will also be looking for reviews, pricing and where to buy the product. This information should be available to users prior to their converting.

But the job isn’t done after converting. Post-purchase, many users will search for more information about the product using branded terms — installation instructions, how-to guides, proper cleaning and maintenance techniques, general product help and more — and these searches should lead to your website.

All of the brand-related terms throughout the sales funnel have heightened search term relevance to affect consideration, conversion and continued use.

Paid search

If you plan to own as much real estate on the SERPs as possible, paid search is an essential tactic to earn qualified leads. Even if you have obtained the top ranking in organic search results, research suggests that having an ad can produce incremental clicks. With little competition, it’s pretty easy (and cheap) to own these paid search spaces.

With branded search ads, you should be making use of ad extensions. These will provide more information to searchers, which can make your ad stand out and entice users to click. Certain extensions — such as sitelink, location or price extensions — can also increase your listing’s SERP real estate, particularly on mobile.

Keep in mind that Google factors ad extensions into its Ad Rank calculation, so proper use of extensions can give you an edge over competitors who may be running conquest campaigns on your brand name.

Other branded search considerations

Beyond the basics of SERPs with organic and paid search listings, you should be taking advantage of additional branded search real estate options that should be taken advantage of, including:

Organic sitelinks, the links that are displayed under the top organic search result. They’re important since they occupy a lot of SERP real estate and can function as an outline of your site, helping users to navigate to your other top pages. Google determines whether it will provide sitelinks or not, so you don’t have direct control over this — but you can help Google out by submitting an XML sitemap and having your site set up with a logical hierarchy.

Apple shows six organic sitelinks for a branded search. Note the site search box, too.

You want to make sure map results are showing up for you if your brand or business has physical locations. To do this, you need to ensure that you’ve set up Google My Business listings with the correct NAP (name, address and phone) information.If your site has an internal search function, you then have a solid chance of a search box showing up on Google. If it doesn’t display within the SERPs, you can utilize structured data markup per Google’s guidelines.The Knowledge Graph helps users discover business information quickly and easily. Google will pull this information automatically from trustworthy sites like Wikipedia or WebMD. With the right mix of search tactics, you can obtain a Knowledge Graph result for your brand. Make sure that you have all social channels, a solid description, reviews and accurate information correctly displaying in the eye-catching Knowledge Graph.

Final thoughts

Branded searches are imperative and shouldn’t be overlooked. Many assume that search queries involving your brand will naturally lead to your website, but that’s simply not the case. Without optimizing your paid and organic search efforts to capture branded searches throughout the entire purchase cycle, you’ll be missing out on tons of potential new traffic and conversions. Owning as much real estate as possible for your brand is crucial, especially during high-traffic seasonality.

Oftentimes, branded search terms can be the last channel touch point for consumers who are about ready to convert on one of your products or services. By incorporating branded search into your overall digital marketing strategy, you can quickly accelerate your brand, helping it stand out on the SERPs and provide a better experience to audiences.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Omnichannel shoppers collide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, setting new records

Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to gain cultural significance across the US and the globe as shoppers and retailers deepen their relationships through enhanced technology, stronger/more personalized deals and a singular online-offline approach. As for 2017, all major metrics trended up, including click volume, mobile purchases, foot traffic and overall sales. Cyber Monday 2017 marked the biggest shopping day in US history, with over $6.59B in sales, including a record-breaking $2B in mobile sales.

Bing (my employer) also saw strong positive trends, with a YOY jump in clicks across Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the entire month of November. In the US, clicks were up 9 percent (cross-device) between Black Friday and Cyber Monday when compared with the same time period in 2016, and we also saw clicks up 12 percent YOY for the month of November. The rise in clicks is likely due to large retailers who extend Black Friday deals earlier and later — a trend US consumers have come to expect as retailers like Walmart and Toyota offered week-long Black Friday deals.

This increase in clicks YOY wasn’t just a trend we saw in the US, but also around the world, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday become a global phenomenon. Bing’s international clicks across all devices were up over 17 percent for Black Friday and 20 percent for Cyber Monday.

The holiday numbers also support a strong omnichannel approach throughout the 2017 season. According to Matt Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), 51 million Americans shopped exclusively in stores throughout the holiday weekend, 58 million Americans shopped exclusively online, and a majority 65 million shopped both, representing the new sweet spot for leading retailers.

The online, mobile and in-store experience needs to work in harmony if retailers are going to continue in the new economy. The NRF reported that over 174 million Americans showed up in stores over the holiday weekend as retailers wooed consumers with free coffee bars, foot massages and cosmetic samples. As the numbers show, these same shoppers went home to buy online, many of them making purchases on their phones. The Home Depot even reported seeing more mobile traffic than desktop.

Black Friday deals also popped up in some new places, such as the Amazon Alexa, where users could find early deals starting November 22 through voice shopping. In classic omnichannel form, Amazon leveraged their Whole Foods brick-and-mortars to promote their Alexa devices. Every retailer should be following suit, combining their online and offline forces for maximum impact.

Bing’s Black Friday to Cyber Monday search trends

I love digging into the query reports post-Black Friday and Cyber Monday to highlight a few trends and see what has changed in consumer behavior as users search for deals this holiday season. Here are the insights I uncovered based on search trend data from the 2017 Black Friday to Cyber Monday shopping period:

Don’t forget to add year-modified keywords

We continued to see the trend where consumers are adding the calendar year to their search queries when looking for specific deals and offers. The top Black Friday and Cyber Monday intent-related keywords can be summarized in the following query combinations:

‘Tis the season for tech and entertainment

As in previous years, we saw a surge in tech-related queries as consumers searched for the latest phones and gaming consoles. It’s no surprise to me that the most-searched-for tech items are the two that are almost impossible to find with a discount: the iPhone X and Xbox One X.

We’re also seeing search trends that point to this year’s hottest toys. Last year, Hatchimals were the toy du jour; this year, Fingerlings have taken over. There was also a surge in searches for Yu-Gi-Oh! Dueling Nexus.

It’s also the time of the year to be entertained, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the movie “Bad Moms Christmas” as one of the top new queries over the holiday weekend.

It’s not too late

There’s still time to make the most of the 2017 holiday season. Here are five quick ways you should be using search to leverage your omnichannel strategy:

    Get ready for Green Monday. The 2016 comScore data rated the second Monday in December, or Green Monday, as one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Be sure your campaign budgets are high enough to accommodate a likely spike in traffic on Monday, December 11.Watch your budgets: Make sure you account for high-traffic shopping days. 2016 comScore data showed a string of 27 consecutive billion-dollar shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, up from nine consecutive billion-dollar days in 2015. If this trend continues, it is worth keeping an eye on campaign budgets between Thanksgiving and Christmas, paying special attention to your top traffic days for the 2016 holiday season to make sure you don’t run out of budget before the end of the month.Know your shipping cutoff dates. Make it easy for your customers to understand the deadlines for ground shipping, two-day shipping, next-day shipping, or even same-day shipping, so their gifts can make it on time. I pulled together the dates from USPS, UPS and FedEx for you in the graphic below:
    Use ad extensions to call out shipping cutoffs and promotions. No one likes buying holiday presents only to miss the cutoff by a single day. Be sure to clearly communicate your shipping requirements with customers, including placing it in ad copy and site extensions. It’s not too late to use countdown ads customizers in your ad copy to call out shipping cutoffs or to call attention to those last-minute holiday promotions.If available, advertise free store pickup. Most of today’s leading retailers are offering free store pickup as a solution for busy holiday shoppers. If applicable, advertise free store pickup in ad copy and site extensions, especially after shipping cutoff dates pass.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Oracle DMP adds integration with Bing Ads custom audiences

Advertisers using Oracle DMP can now integrate their first-party data into Bing Ads to create custom audiences for targeting on the search engine, the companies announced Wednesday.

The integration opens up additional targeting, bidding and messaging strategies that can be specific to what an advertiser knows about the audience being targeted. For example, messaging to users who have performed certain actions, or who are in certain income groupings, can be different from a run-of-the-mill ad that might go to a general remarketing audience.

As these audiences may also represent more value, advertisers can also bid more aggressively on searches performed by users in these audience lists.

Launched in pilot in June 2017, Bing Ads Custom Audiences function as a remarketing bucket, where advertisers can use their own data to create audience segments for ad targeting. Initially, the pilot was limited to first-party data from Adobe Audience Manager, with Bing Ads stating there would be further integrations forthcoming.

“Onboarding first-party data into the Oracle DMP with Oracle OnRamp offers marketers the ability to integrate the data they want to use into their Bing Ads campaigns,” said Joe Zito, vice president/GM of Oracle DMP Strategy, in a statement. “Marketers can seamlessly orchestrate retargeting campaigns and improve Bing Ad targeting accuracy with audience data provided through the Oracle DMP.”

Advertisers can contact their Bing Ads or Oracle DMP account reps for additional help in getting started with the Bing Ads Custom Audiences pilot.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.